Who Invented the Squeegee?

Kara Kovalchik
iStock / iStock

The name "squeegee" dates back to the Middle Ages, when fishermen used a wooden device with a wide blade of some sort on one end that was called a squilgee to scrape the debris of their profession off of boat decks. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville makes reference to a tool that “operates like a leathern squilgee."

In the early 20th century, window washers discovered that the squilgee concept would be a perfect tool for their trade. Details are sketchy, but a device called the “Chicago squeegee” became the standard in the industry. It was made of heavy steel and had two rubber blades that were attached by 12 screws. Ettore Steccone of Oakland, California, was a window washer who decided there had to be a better alternative to the bulky, cumbersome Chicago squeegee, and set out to design his own. Today, Ettore Products is a $50 million per year business that exports squeegees to 60 countries.

An Ettore squeegee now has a place of honor in the Smithsonian Institution. It was used by window washer Jan Demczur to free himself and five others from an elevator shaft in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.